By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Apr 07, 2010 at 1:03 PM Photography: Whitney Teska

Milwaukee, like most cities, has never really had any sort of pizza shortage. Whether it's the classic cracker-thin crust from Zaffiro's you like, the thicker, doughy version at Pizza Shuttle or Joey Buena's deep-dish, there has always been a plethora of pie options.

But one thing we were largely missing, until recently, was a decent pizza-by-the-slice selection. It's a very metropolitan thing -- the concept of a bustling urban center with quick and delicious meal options available on-the-go for the city's movers and shakers.

Thankfully, a few years ago the trend began to shift in Milwaukee as new businesses arrived to offer interesting and affordable pizza for one. Classic Slice, Brick 3, Streetza and Ian's Pizza come to mind.

Now, a Brady Street newcomer should come to mind when you get a hankering for a hand-held lunch or dinner. Crisp Pizzabar & Lounge, which held its grand opening April 3, has taken over the long-vacant space left by Coco Bella, and previously Vucciria, at 1323 E. Brady St.

The space really works well for the street. Its large, airy, open-kitchen concept is modern and sleek -- it's another creation from Milwaukee's Flux Design crew -- and can easily accommodate a group of young barhoppers looking for a nightcap and a midnight snack, as well as young families looking to share a pizza in one of the many spacious booths lining the perimeter. Much like Brady Street itself, the restaurant's clientele is a mixed bag.

With a fully industrialized look and music pumping from a complex sound system, it wasn't surprising to find that the menu wasn't your typical stroll down pizza lane. What caught our eye right away were the plethora of specialty toppings to choose from, including homemade gyro sausage, garlic cream, roasted potatoes, eggs and walnuts, to name a few.

We opted for a No. 10, which features artichoke, prosciutto, basil, asparagus, goat cheese and spiced tomato sauce atop a savory, air-pocked filled crust that was a nice medium between thin crust and thick. The spiced tomato sauce stood true to its name; so much so that the shaker of red pepper flakes provided on the table remained untouched. But, if spice is not your thing, fear not. Other sauce options include the mild naked tomato sauce, basil cream sauce, extra virgin olive oil and BBQ sauce.

Owners Rob Settecase, Ian Pesch and Chris Grant wanted to make high quality pizza a priority for their new venture and Chef John Berge was their answer. Settecase says Berge has been working on a "Neapolitan fusion" menu to include simple, unique pizza that will appeal to the health conscious, meat-lovers and vegetarians alike.

After 15 years of culinary experience, Berge was intrigued by the opportunity to showcase his artistic take on food using the distinctive oven.

"The pie is wood-fired Neapolitan style and made with imported Italian flours," says Berge. "The flavor combinations are simple and endless. The chance to make simple, fusion inspired pizza in one amazing oven pushed my buttons."

While the pizza -- offered at $5 a slice, $10 for a personal size and $20 for a large with three toppings -- is the main focus of Crisp, the menu does not stop there. Starters include Jack Daniel's braised fire roasted ribs (served with Southern slaw), Crisp truffle dough sticks and homemade portobella fries with a tangy aioli dip. Sandwiches are semi-nontraditional: a Reuben, a lamburger and a turkey burger. There's also Guinness lamb and rib Irish stew available on the soup menu.

Crisp is also a lounge, featuring a full bar on each level and a spacious "smokers' deck" off the second floor mezzanine. Settecase says he plans to keep the kitchen open late -- until 1 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday and until 1:30 a.m. Thursday though Saturday. Crisp is open daily.


Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”